The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart

What if I woke up one morning and noticed a puddle of water on the floor in the bedroom, and I took quick action by looking up, and there I noticed that the problem was something in the ceiling. Yep, I tell my wife, there’s a leak up there somewhere. Then I address the problem by putting a bucket on the floor, promising to be faithful to empty that bucket whenever it’s full.
That would be just plain dumb, wouldn’t it?
That would be like telling someone with an anger problem just to take a deep breath when the rage is at its peak. Or telling someone with a pornography addiction to put a better filter on his computer. Or telling someone whose marriage is failing to buy a dozen roses and a box of chocolates for his spouse. Or telling someone who is morbidly obese to start an exercise program and go on a diet. Each of those suggestions is a bucket that catches some of the leaks and keeps the mess at a minimum … maybe. But none of those suggestions fix the problem.

The leaky roof is not solved with a bucket, but with a repair. You have to get to the source. The anger problem is not solved by behavior modification, but by heart change. Neither are any of the others. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. And, as John Calvin said years ago, “The human heart is an idol factory . . . every one of us from our mother’s womb is an expert at inventing idols.”

One of the best books to come along in a long time to address the problem of heart idols is “Gods at War,” by Kyle Idleman. He suggests we ask ourselves the following questions to see what false gods we have raised up in our hearts.

What disappoints you? When we feel overwhelmed by disappointment, it’s a good sign that something has become far more important to us than it should be. Disproportionate disappointment reveals that we have placed intense hope and longing in something other than God.

What do you complain about the most? Ask someone close to you about your typical complaints. If you constantly complain about your financial situation, maybe money has become too important to you. If you constantly whine to your spouse about your sex life, maybe sexual pleasure has become a god. If you constantly complain about a lack of respect in the office, maybe what other people think about you matters more than it should. If you constantly complain about what kind of year your sports team is having, maybe sports has become your god.

Where do you make financial sacrifices? Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Where your money goes shows what god is winning your heart.

What worries you? It could be the idea of losing someone significant, or losing your job or your house or your talent. It could be the fear of being ridiculed. Whatever it is that wakes you — or for that matter keeps you up — has the potential to be an idol.

Where is your sanctuary? Where do you go when you’re hurting? After a terrible day at the office, where do you go when you get home? To the refrigerator for comfort food? To the phone to vent with your most trusted friend? Do you seek escape in novels or movies or video games or pornography? Where do you look for emotional rescue?

I challenge you to ask yourself these questions. It may change your life.